Sunday, November 30, 2014

On deck for the week of 12/1/2014

Population and Evolutionary Biology BIO225

  • Age/Stage Distributions
  • Leslie Matrices and Life Cycles
  • Interactions
  • Competition
  • Predation
  • Mutualisms
  • Conservation Biology 


  • Principal Components Analysis in Lab
  • Readings (2 lectures left)


  • work on manuscript: back with very disheartening comments on my writing

  • evaluate Neuroscience major 
  • meet with our global ed person for a trip to Galapagos


  • Cross country ski? 

My Year of Darwin 11/30/2014 Don't believe it? Test it.

 Charles Darwin

"I believe that the hive-bee has acquired, through natural selection, her inimitable architectural powers.
  But this theory can be tested by experiment. Following the example of Mr. Tegetmeier, I separated two combs, and put between them a long, thick, square strip of wax."  Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

Darwin is alluding to the comb-making behavior of bees. I chose this passage because it shows Darwin's willingness to experiment to test hypotheses. Here Darwin believes that seemingly complex combs can be created by a few basic rules. Cool. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

My Year of Darwin 11/29/2014 Even in ants, slavery is ugly

 Charles Darwin

"I tried to approach the subject in a sceptical frame of mind, as any one may well be excused for doubting the truth of so extraordinary and odious an instinct as that of making slaves."  Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

Darwin was very much against slavery - vehemently so. And here the thought of it in "lower" lifeforms abhors him. But this is an amazing behavior for an organism with only neural ganglia so Darwin's skepticism is understandable. 

Local mosquito larva

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Year of Darwin 11/28/2014 Cuckoo for cuckoos

 Charles Darwin

"It has been asserted that the American cuckoo occasionally lays her eggs in other birds' nests; but I hear on high authority of Dr. Brewer, that this is a mistake."  Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

My first thought is that DNA fingerprinting would be an ideal technique to answer this question and a quick Google Scholar search didn't find any articles addressing this in Coccyzus cuckoos. I suspect the lack of papers isn't a technological problem but just from the fact that their nests are so damn hard to find. 

Viburnum dentatum - great food source for birds

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Amazing Darwin Resource

American Museum of Natural History's Darwin Manuscripts Project 

My Year of Darwin 11/27/2014 Behaviors evolve like structures

 Charles Darwin

No complex instinct can possibly be produced through natural selection, except by the slow and gradual accumulation of numerous, slight, yet profitable, variations."  Charles Darwin, Origin of Species 1st edition (on Kindle)

This was a harder concept for me to wrap my head around though once I think about it this does make sense. Instincts are based in neurons and neurons are structures.

Harpy Eagle talons, Be thankful you're eating a bird this holiday and not the other way around